Papilloma in Lizards

Papilloma in Lizards - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Papilloma in Lizards - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Papilloma?

Papilloma in lizards is due to an infectious virus that causes warty growths. The size of the papilloma can range from 2 to 20 mm in diameter. The papillomas are tan or eggshell in color and have the appearance of horns.

Viral papilloma is most common in lacertids such as skints, tegus, and cordylidae.  The warts usually grow on the head, neck, and mouth area.  They can grow singularly or can form a cluster. They are easily seen on the smooth skin. Viral papillomas can cause secondary bacterial or fungal infections.

Symptoms of Papilloma in Lizards

Symptoms may include:

  • Slight swelling of the infected area
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Lethargy 
  • Anorexia
  • Papillomas may cause a difficult shed
  • Scratching
  • Bleeding
  • Unable to eat due to warts in the mouth
  • Horn/cone like warts
  • Clusters of warts


Causes of Papilloma in Lizards

  • Bite from an infected lizard
  • Sharing housing, food bowls, and water with an infected lizard
  • Scratched by an infected lizard
  • Contact with warts that are open or bleeding
  • Pet owner can transmit the virus, coming into contact with the blood of an infected lizard and then handling another lizard


Diagnosis of Papilloma in Lizards

The reptile veterinarian will want to know what symptoms you have observed and when they commenced. Let the veterinarian know if you just recently obtained your lizard and also advise if he has been around other lizards. 

The reptile veterinarian will perform a physical exam on the patient, including a careful oral examination. The veterinarian will examine your lizard’s skin and evaluate visible warts and bumps. 

The only way to truly diagnose the virus is by electron-microscopy.  The veterinarian may want to sedate your lizard and administer a local anesthetic in order to perform a skin biopsy. The electron microscope uses a ray of electrons to create a detailed image of the biopsy sample. The electron microscope has higher magnifications than a regular microscope. Lizards diagnosed with papillomas should be kept in quarantine and not exposed to other reptiles.  It is important to keep his housing cleaned and disinfected to avoid bacterial or fungal infections. When handling a lizard diagnosed with the papillomavirus, it is important to either wear gloves or to wash and disinfect your hands after holding him.  Hand hygiene is also necessary when cleaning his housing or changing food and water bowls.

There is no cure for papilloma in lizards.  The veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics and antifungal medications if the lizard has open cuts from scratching.  Papilloma clusters around the mouth, which are causing the lizard not to be able to eat, will need to be surgically removed by a reptile surgeon.  The patient will need to have general anesthesia. 

There are lizards that are able to suppress the virus.  They are still infectious and should not be allowed to be in a habitat with other lizards. A lizard may go months without any outbreak of the virus. Unfortunately, stress, fatigue and/or a weakened immune system may cause the papillomas to return.  

Your lizard’s habitat and diet must be closely monitored.  The housing temperature and humidity must be checked daily.  The veterinarian may suggest adding dietary supplements and vitamins to the patient’s diet. Reptiles have different health requirements, so your veterinarian will specify what vitamins and supplements are best for your type of reptile.  

Having your lizard in a safe, happy and healthy atmosphere may improve his chances of not having frequent outbreaks of the virus.  If you have any questions regarding the patient’s habitat or diet, please discuss them with the veterinarian.  The veterinarian may also be able to offer additional suggestions, to ensure your lizard’s immune system is not suppressed.



Treatment of Papilloma in Lizards

Owners of lizards that undergo surgery will be given postoperative instructions from the reptile surgeon. If the patient received sutures, they will need to be removed by the veterinarian. The incision area may need to be wiped down with an antiseptic wipe daily. It will be very important to clean his housing, water and food bowls daily as well.  Please notify the reptile surgeon if the incision appears red, swollen or if it begins to bleed.

Papillomavirus does not affect the lifespan of the lizard. Lizards with the virus can live full and happy lives.  It is recommended that pet reptiles should have yearly checkups to ensure that they are in good health.



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